The Sirens Review Squad is made up of Sirens volunteers, who submit short reviews of books (often fantasy literature by women or nonbinary authors) they’ve read and enjoyed. If you’re interested in sending us a book list or review to run on the blog, please email us! Today, we welcome a book list by Sami Thomason
There’s nothing I love more than a ruthless heroine unleashing her power, be it through mental gymnastics like Jude in Holly Black’s Folk of the Air trilogy, or sheer force like Rielle and Eliana in Claire Legrand’s Empirium trilogy. Men may call them monsters, but these fiercely capable women show their teeth and claws without hesitating, and I love them for it.
Rin Chupeco, one of Sirens’s 2020 guests of honor, has a brilliant book about a girl who can raise the dead and those foolish enough to stand in her way. The storytelling in this book is fantastic, and as Tea’s journey begins, you can tell that she may become the villain of this story, but she’s such a compelling character that I was on her side anyway.
Duncan’s intricate world of saints, heretics, blood magic, and old gods leaps off the page and straight into your subconscious, haunting you long past the last earth-shattering chapter. Seen as a savior by some and a monster by others, gods-blessed cleric Nadya will do anything to save her country for a heretical invasion, including teaming up with a blood mage and the enemy prince. Reylo shippers, this one’s for you, with two powerful teens pulled together by both dark and light forces.
When a ravenous entity preys on the teen girls of the island, Sawkill Rock raises three girls to fight it off: lonely Marion, fiery Zoey, and slippery Val. Uncovering occult secrets and craving intimacy, the Sawkill girls are drawn together despite their differences and past woes. Men and monsters may assume that girls inherently seek the destruction of each other, but Legrand’s horror manifesto claims otherwise, with powerful prose and beautifully wrought characters.
A searing dismissal of the typical fairy tale, Stepsister smashes every glass slipper and turns the dust into something entirely new. When Isabelle’s lovely stepsister is crowned queen of France, the village turns against her family, sneering at the “ugly stepsisters,” who stood in Ella’s way by maiming their feet. While Fate and Chance battle over the fate of one bitterly disappointed girl, France is under vicious attack from an evil conqueror. When Isabelle is given the chance to change her fate by collecting the pieces of her broken heart, she becomes more than the envy she wears like a cloak. This book is so earth-shatteringly brilliant that I want every girl who’s ever felt less than herself to read it.
Told in alternating perspectives, Girls Made of Snow and Glass follows Mina, a woman with a glass heart, and her eventual stepdaughter, Lynet, a girl made of snow and blood. Desperate to feel love, Mina schemes her way to becoming queen of Whitespring, willing her heart of glass to open for the king and his young daughter, but finding it as cold as the Northern kingdom she now rules. Artificially-made Lynet longs to feel real and escape the shadow of her dead mother, whose image she was created in. When the king pits them against each other, Mina and Lynet will have to learn what love really is, or else destroy each other.
Bashardoust’s new book, Girl, Serpent, Thorn comes out this May and focuses on a princess cursed to be a monster. Not to be missed!
Living as a woman in a close-minded town can feel like a constant scream caught in your throat—a feeling Peternelle van Arsdale so beautifully articulates in The Cold is in Her Bones. Based in part off the myth of Medusa, our heroine Milla lives in a world in fear of demons, where she is always chided and constrained by her parents in order to “protect” her. But curses have a funny way of coming around, and when Milla’s only friend is afflicted, her parents’ worst dreams come true as Milla sets off to free her friend, uncovering dark family secrets and truths about the nature of demons and her own power.
An astonishing competition set in the four seasons, a ruthless emperor, and a brilliant inventor prince, with one girl to undo them all. A yōkai girl discovers her destiny as she enters a competition to become the Empress of her divided nation in this silk-painted story of dreams and nightmares. Think Hunger Games meets mythology!
If you like your YA on the gruesome side, Not Even Bones is definitely up your alley. A bloody, macabre, and masterful take on the supernatural, this book follows Nita, a girl with supernatural abilities who dissects other supernaturals for the black market. When the tables turn and Nita becomes the hunted one, she learns that being monstrous is more than skin deep.
Wilder Girls may have been marketed as “feminist Lord of the Flies,” but I think “young adult Annihilation” would be a more apt tagline. Not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach, Wilder Girls is a brutal exploration of how toxicity, real and metaphorical, infects an isolated girls’ boarding school. Power’s gorgeously
Sami Thomason is the events and marketing coordinator at Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi. Before that, she got a bachelor’s degree in English Literature at Millsaps College and worked briefly at Walt Disney World (she’s seen some stuff). She runs two book clubs for kids and a book subscription box called Teen’s First. You can find her on Twitter at @SamiSaysRead and Instagram as @sami.says.read.